5 Easy-to-Implement Trauma-Informed Strategies That Work for ALL Students
(3 Minute Read)
As many students return to in-person learning after an extended period of distance learning during the COVID19 pandemic, the need for trauma-informed practices has become incredibly important. Stress related to the pandemic may impact students in the areas of health, food instability, social isolation, unstable home environment, and connections to protests and violence related to racism. As educators, we often do not know which of our students have experienced trauma or been impacted by pandemic-related stresses, however, we can be sure to reach these students and other students by using trauma-informed practices with ALL students. Here are five easy-to-implement trauma-informed strategies that work for all students!
- Provide Choices
- Teach Expectations
- Teach Social-Emotional Skills
- Utilize Visual Supports
- Use Positive Messages
Let’s look at these each a little closer.
1. Provide Choices
For many students, returning to in-person learning means transitioning to a schedule that is more strict, longer school days, and less control over their environment. Providing students with choices can help them maintain some sense of control.
- Tip: Keep it simple and only offer 2 to 3 choices.
- Example: “Would you like to start with reading or writing?”
2. Teach Expectations
Don’t assume that students know how to act. It may be hard for many students to adjust to the expectations of in-person learning and we can support them by explicitly teaching (and reteaching!) them how we expect them to behave.
- Tip: Model for them what you want them to do.
- Example: Teach students how to line up for a class transition by telling them what it should look like, modeling what it should look like, and giving them times to practice!
3. Teach Social-Emotional Skills
Take time to explicitly teach students skills and strategies they need to regulate their emotions and engage positively with others. Teaching social-emotional skills (SEL) allows us to take a proactive, non-punitive approach to supporting behaviors!
- Tip: Embed SEL instruction into morning meetings. (Did you know there is an 83% increase in students’ social-emotional skills when SEL is integrated into the curriculum?!)
- Example: “Whole-body listening means listening to the person’s words, looking at the person speaking, thinking about what is being said, quieting your voice and waiting your turn to speak or ask questions, and calming your body to show you are listening!”
4. Utilize Visual Supports
Visual supports can be used to remind students of expectations (remember to teach them first!) and allow for non-verbal redirection with students.
- Tip: Teach the expectation or information displayed on the visual before posting in the classroom. Post it near the area it is needed and refer back to it frequently.
- Example: Visual schedules allow for predictability and allow students to see what is coming next.
5. Use Positive Messages
Recommendations can vary anywhere from 3:1 to 10:1 for the needed ratio of positive to negative comments/messages students receive at school, with the higher end being more supportive of students who have experienced trauma. Regardless of the number of positive comments recommended, all recommendations acknowledge that students need to hear more positive messages at school than negative messages.
- Tip: Call out or recognize in some capacity when you see students demonstrating expected behaviors.
- Example: “I see that Suzie is in her chair and ready to learn!”
Using these strategies is not just good for all students–it’s good for teachers too! Using strategies such as these can reduce negative behaviors, a common factor related to teacher burnout!*
- Here are the SEL statistics you need. (2020, January 15). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.weareteachers.com/sel-statistics-free-poster/
- Lewis, D. (2020, July 12). Are you trauma informed? Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2017/12/05/trauma-informed/
- Randy Sprick’s safe & Civil schools – practical Solutions, Positive results! (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.safeandcivilschools.com/research/references/positive-feedback-ratio-of-interactions.php
- Sparks, S. (2021, January 15). Triaging for trauma during covid-19. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/triaging-for-trauma-during-covid-19/2020/09Teacher burnout: What it is, why it happens, and how you can Prevent end-of-year burnout. (2019, June 19). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.waterford.org/education/how-to-prevent-teacher-burnout/